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Arthritis in Dogs & Cats

Arthritis in Dogs & Cats

Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease, more commonly known as arthritis, is a prevalent orthopaedic disease of dogs and cats. It refers to is progressive and chronic inflammation of the joints which results in degeneration of the cartilage in the joint. Cartilage in the joint deteriorates so that cushioning that once protected the joint is no longer able to do its job. The resultant joint instability encourages the growth of osteophytes, or bone spurs in the joint as the body tries to compensate for the loss of cartilage. This results in pain and stiffness in the joint. 

The joints most affected by arthritis are generally those that work the hardest, such as the knees, elbows, shoulders, and hip joints but any joint can be affected.

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Who is affected?

Arthritis can affect any breed or age of dog or cat. It can occur as pets become older or when there has been a past injury, congenital or conformational abnormality. Underlying problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia also cause arthritis. It also develops with natural wear and tear on the joints with age. 

According to PetSure data over the 2020 calendar year, Arthritis was most prevalent in the following breeds of dog:

Breed 

Prevalence*

Rough Collie

5.78%

Newfoundland

4.55%

Shetland Sheepdog

4.52%

Golden Retriever 

4.23%

Dogue De Bordeaux 

4.23%

Samoyed

4.13%

Labrador

4.00%

Great Dane

3.75%

Bernese Mountain

3.62%

Alaskan Malamute

3.44%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Over the same period, Arthritis was most prevalent in the following breeds of cat:

Breed 

Prevalence*

Siamese

1.66%

Burmese

1.03%

Persian

1.00%

British Shorthair

0.62%

Domestic Shorthair

0.57%

Russian Blue

0.50%

Tonkinese

0.32%

Bengal

0.29%

Maine Coon

0.29%

Birman

0.29%

Signs of Arthritis

Arthritis in dogs often manifests as lameness or limping on an affected limb/s. Stiffness may also occur on rising. Some dogs may appear stiff or lame after exercise. 

Our feline friends can be harder to read. Some cats may become irritable (or more irritable in some cases!), have issues going to the toilet, or become generally less active. 

Reluctance to jump or head up and down stairs could give you another clue that your dog or cat might have Arthritis. 

Sometimes, swelling in the affected joints may occur. These signs can be indications of pain or discomfort and they can also be symptoms of very serious diseases including osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Don’t delay in seeking out Veterinary advice if you notice changes in your pet. 

Diagnosing Arthritis

Arthritis is typically diagnosed through a combination of understanding the pet patient’s history, including past injuries or surgeries; a thorough clinical examination to identify areas of pain, crepitus (which is the feeling or sound that the friction in the diseased joint makes), or swelling in the pet's joints; and observing the pet walk and move. X-ray or CT (or CAT scan) is also commonly used to help diagnose arthritis as well as check for other conditions such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament disease, patella luxation, developmental abnormalities, or tumours. 

Managing Arthritis

Unfortunately, arthritis is not curable, and it is painful. So, pain management is very important in keeping arthritic pets comfortable and happy. Blood tests are commonly performed to check pet’s suitability for long term anti-inflammatory use and repeated periodically to check ongoing suitability. 

Pentosan polysulfate may be recommended in addition to pain relief medication. This drug is used to help stimulate growth of and protect the damaged cartilage. 

Glucosamine or fish oil (omega-3) supplements may also be recommended as part of the management of Arthritis in pets. These may come in the form of powders, chews or included in special diets. Mover & Shaker meal topper for dogs  is also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids from freeze-dried Salmon Powder and v Green Lipped Mussels which help reduce the degradation and inflammation within the joint. It also includes Kale Powder, Rose Hip Powder and Hemp Seeds which provide valuable joint support as they are rich in essential vitamins and amino acids. 

Activity is still important in pets with arthritis, as maintaining muscle mass helps increase stability and reduce pressure on the bones and joints. Weight loss in obese pets is likely to be recommended because excess weight puts extra strain on bones and joints, which can worsen conditions like arthritis. Choose low-impact exercise, such as swimming for dogs. In some situations, surgery may be required such as for cruciate ligament disease, hip, or elbow dysplasia. 

As arthritis needs long term management, regular vet check-ups are necessary. 

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from the 2020 calendar year, the average, single treatment cost relating to Arthritis in dogs was $141, with the highest, single treatment cost being $12,863. For cats, the average single treatment cost in 2020 was $132 and the highest single treatment cost was $7,296.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions.You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

References

  1. Arthritis in Dogs and Cats: What Can be Done, Accessed 06 May 2020
  2. Nelson, R & Couto, 2003, Small animal internal medicine, 3rd edition, Mosby, USA. 

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Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Noah
Noah
Bei Bei
Bei Bei
Meeka
Meeka